Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Hoey sees it’s tough on tour

Northern Ireland Open Tournament Ambassador Michael Hoey

It's a measure of how successful the European Tour has become that rising stars such as Camillo Villegas and Anthony Kim are queuing up to join in.

But the downside is that players such as Ulster's Michael Hoey and Jonny Caldwell are finding it tough just to make it into the fields.

Last week, for example, Hoey was the fourth reserve for the Maybank Malaysian Open and there weren't enough withdrawals from players in the draw for him to play.

Instead, he took himself back to South Africa and earned himself 16,695 rand (£1,192) by finishing 40th in the Vodacom Championship which was won by Swede Anders Hanson.

That brought Hoey up to seventh place on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, but sadly for him, that money doesn't count on the Road to Dubai.

He’s once again on the reserve list for the Johnnie Walker Classic in Australia this week, but hasn’t made the trip Down Under.

And as he hasn't played since the Joburg Open in mid January — which was a co-sanctioned event with the European Tour and did count on the money list — he has slipped to 107th in the Race to Dubai rankings.

He's back home in Belfast this week and is hoping to play in Indonesia next month where he's seventh reserve at the moment and he's not a definite starter in a tournament until the Madeira Island Open in mid March.

Contrast that to the schedule of Rory McIlroy who can cherry pick the events he wants to play on both sides of the Atlantic now that he's firmly established inside the world's top 50.

"It's a little frustrating for Michael not to get into these events, but there's plenty of golf to come later in the year," said Colin Morrissey of Hoey's management company Horizon Sports.

"There are realistically 25 events he can play after Madeira and that's more than sufficient for him to earn enough to keep his card."

Horizon's stable also includes Caldwell, Lurgan's Gareth Shaw, Derry's Michael McGeady, Ballyclare’s Gareth Maybin — who is in Australia and finished sixth in Malaysia — as well as Portrush's Graeme McDowell.

Caldwell, who has a lower category ranking than Hoey after just about earning his card at the qualifying school last year, is also waiting for the Spring to start playing regularly. McGeady and Shaw will both start their Challenge Tour seasons in Colombia in around a month's time.

McDowell, who has played only the Dubai Desert Classic, won by McIlroy, this year so far and is basing himself back in America for the next few weeks.

He's currently in Florida for a training camp and is playing this week's PGA Tour event, the Northern Truest Open in Los Angeles as preparation for next week's World Matchplay in Arizona.

He then plays the World Golf Championship event at Doral, the annual charity Tavistock Cup and then the Bay Hill Invitational, one of the biggest events on the American Tour.

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